(I wrote this the day before Jane arrived, thought it would be different to try my hand at some amateur travel writing.)
The baking hot sun with the slight ocean breeze, air filled with smoking and smells of Galão and layers of warm pastries. The clanging of the church bell begins the count down reminding me it is 10am and I have missed the first five hours of my day again by drinking too much Dao wine last night, eating too much cheese and just staring at the 7/8 filled moon from my sixth floor balcony in a five star hotel. I watch an older woman dressed in mostly black holding on to her sturdy but aged husband wobble towards the bus stop. They look tired, of each other, and their lives, but dependent too like they have been together so long they can’t imagine any other way. They have probably been married since they have been teens and they have seen much on their lovely small island that just got cars only forty years ago.
It is another magical day in this paradise only four short hours away from home. Sunny, hot, breezy. They jokingly say it is the only island that has four seasons in one day. People are kind, warm, friendly, easy, slow. There are tour busses everywhere reminding travelers that this place is a hot bed for tourism, oddly undiscovered and a rare gem. Sitting here with my coffee and half milk, Galão a Portuguese version of Café au Lait, I type at the outdoor café as the world goes by. Today is my last day before the mayhem begins with all of the crazy ladies arriving at 6am tomorrow so I will take my time today and try to stop my chatty head filed with what I should do rather than what I am doing right now. I am drinking this Galão because my tour guide Paula told me yesterday that the milk served in all of the Azores is produced here on Sao Miguel.
As I marched around yesterday on scenic trails in Sete Cidades and the surrounding areas with my tour guide, Paula at the helm giving me a detailed tour of the city she was born and raised in like we were old friends visiting after a long absence, there were free roaming cows everywhere. I am not speaking of the “free roaming” cows barricaded by a fence on one farm, I am speaking about cows who roam wherever they want on the volcanic mounds disguised as hillsides. The farmers go to them to do their milking, rather than the other way around. In my own non scientific opinion, it seems to me that the milk in my coffee today as a much more healing energy than any half gallon of grass fed six dollar milk found at Whole Foods that I have been told to stay away from anyway because of its estrogenic energy and my breast cancer. I am curious if this fact can be backed up by any alarming rate of breast cancer on this island where milk is like water. It has occurred to me that we are all under the illusion of eating natural farm raised beef, dairy and eggs unless we actually witness the natural farm they are raised on. I have witnessed this and am humbled greatly.
As I suspected, yesterday in the lobby, I hear, “Alayne?” Yep. Someone I knew from a few towns over, Barrington, here with her family. I was afraid she would want to take a picture and I am trying to stay undercover for one more day so I explained my surprise as she waited for the very slow elevator to arrive. Then off she went and I haven’t seen her since. I want to hike this whole island. It is magic here. I want to learn Portuguese and travel to all of the other islands. I want to be a part of this fabric of simplicity and peace and pride.
As I sit here drinking my second cup of coffee, buzzing because their coffee is espresso and anything else is nescafe, an older man stops to chat and comments in Portuguese, (I am guessing here,) to stop working and enjoy the sunshine. Communication is miraculous as he points to my laptop, to me and then sweeps his arm around to the sky and I hear the word Sol. He doesn’t realize that I am. Writing is my sunshine and without it, it is dark and cloudy. We don’t discuss this, we discuss where he is from, how he arrived here and his life on the island. He tells me as he walks away to enjoy my stay and the people, “We are a calm people,” he says. I well up for some reason at his simplicity. It feels like something I identify with and I am again humbled and satisfied with my choice to sit at the simple café recommended by Paula because I asked where to get a good cup of coffee. Tomorrow I will set my alarm for five am and make my way down to the lobby to blow my friend’s mind. I don’t know if I am more excited to be here or to surprise Jane. I love this place and I don’t want it to end.